The Observatory is guided by an advisory group of individuals who bring relevant expertise to its work. Some members also serve on a partner steering group that provides closer coordination and oversight of the Observatory activities. Observatory associates and students combine their academic research with the development of products and tools that have practical applications in drylands.
Observatory Steering Group
Guyo Roba: Guyo is Head of the Jameel Observatory, based at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi. He is a natural resources scientist and livestock market specialist. Before joining ILRI, he worked for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis. At IFAD, he designed, supervised and supported livestock development, value chains and natural resource management programs. At the IUCN’s Global Drylands Initiative, he provided technical leadership on programme development, project implementation support and contributed to the strategic growth of the programme. Guyo comes from the Borana pastoralist community in Northern Kenya and brings personal and technical insights to his work with dryland communities.
Alan Duncan: Alan provides overall leadership for the Observatory. He holds dual roles as Professor of Livestock and Development at the University of Edinburgh and Principal Research Scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Following many years at the Macaulay Institute (now James Hutton Institute), he moved to Ethiopia in 2007 to work at ILRI where he developed a portfolio of research for development projects on livestock systems in developing countries. Alan is interested in societal, economic and institutional barriers to improved livestock productivity. He has developed several participatory approaches to livestock feed improvement including the widely used Feed Assessment Tool (FEAST).
Claire Walsh: Claire is Associate Director of Policy at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). She works with policymakers and researchers around the world to share insights from randomized evaluations and promote evidence informed policy to reduce poverty and fight climate change. Claire is the Project Director for J-PAL’s King Climate Action Initiative, which works together with governments, NGOs, and companies to catalyze the scale-up of solutions that reduce carbon emissions and carbon co-pollutants, build vulnerable communities’ ability to adapt to climate change, and increase access to affordable energy. She previously led J-PAL’s Innovation in Government Initiative that harnessed evidence to improve public policy. Prior to joining J-PAL in 2012, she worked to improve the quality of education and employment opportunities for youth in East Africa.
Geoff Simm: Geoff is Chair of Global Agriculture and Food Systems, Assistant Principal, and Director of the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security at the University of Edinburgh. The Academy is an interdisciplinary hub of researchers, teachers and students seeking evidence and learning for sustainable, ethical food systems for healthy people and a healthy planet. Geoff’s background is in research, education, industry and policy engagement on sustainable farm animal breeding and sustainable agri-food systems. Prior to joining the University in 2016, he held a variety of leadership roles in SRUC and its predecessors.
George Richards: George is the Director of Community Jameel, an independent, global organisation advancing science to help communities thrive in a rapidly changing world. Prior to becoming Director in 2020, George led strategy for the organisation from 2015, and was head of heritage programmes at Art Jameel, the arts and culture organisation, with responsibility for initiatives in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and beyond, sustaining traditional cultural practices, supporting architectural preservation, and digitally recording heritage.
Isabelle Baltenweck: Isabelle leads the Policies, Institutions and Livelihoods program at the International Livestock Research Institute. She is an agricultural economist with more than 15 years of post-doctoral experience in smallholder value chains in Africa, as well as South and Southeast Asia. She has wide experience in adoption and impact assessment studies, looking particularly at farmers’ decisions to adopt newly introduced technologies in order to understand the drivers as well as the livelihood impacts. She has increasingly sharpened her skills in gender and social equity research, looking at how women’s and men’s needs and capabilities are different in terms of accessing and using technologies and practices. Isabelle’s research also explores institutional arrangements, such as innovation platforms, hubs, or contract farming, that link value chain actors.
Joanne Grace: Jo Grace is the Head of Hunger Reduction and Livelihoods at Save the Children UK. Prior to joining Save the Children, Jo held various posts including Director of Programmes for the Aga Khan Foundation in Mozambique and Team Leader for Rural Livelihoods Research at the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit. Jo is a development professional committed to poverty reduction, climate resilience, gender equality, and the achievement of children’s rights. Her work focuses on gender-sensitive food security and livelihoods in climate vulnerable contexts, leading high performing teams, leading programme design and strategy development, as well as the design and management of action-oriented rural livelihoods research aimed at influencing policy and practice. She also has considerable experience of nutrition and social protection programming and policy.
Observatory Advisory Group
Brenda Lazarus: Brenda Lazarus is an Economist with FAO’s Subregional Office for Eastern Office in Nairobi, Kenya. Brenda advises on emergency needs assessments, early warning systems, and food security analysis to advance FAO’s Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) programmes in the East Africa region. She also co-leads with IGAD the regional Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG). In addition to her current position with FAO, Brenda has also previously worked for both WFP and FEWS NET and has extensive experience with all three agencies in setting up food security early warning systems in a variety of contexts including East and West Africa, as well as Yemen.
Elfatih Eltahir: Elfatih is H. M. King Bhumibol Professor of Hydrology and Climate, and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.His research focuses on understanding how global climate change as well as regional land use change/land cover change impact society through changes in the patterns of water availability, extreme weather, and the spread of vector-borne diseases. Together with his students, he develops sophisticated numerical models that are used for predicting such impacts at regional scales. The models are tested against satellite observations and archived data sets of hydrologic and atmospheric variables, as well as data collected in field campaigns.
Hassan Bashir: Hassan has held executive positions over the last 25 years in the insurance and technology sectors in East Africa. He is an entrepreneur with a deep interest in the linkages between research, enterprise value creation, social-economic development, and good governance. He has founded a number of startups and scaled several successful enterprises in insurance, takaful, pharmaceutical, healthcare, and tech and innovation sectors. He is currently the Founder and Executive Director of Agent for Inclusive Insurance Development (AIID) focusing on mitigating climate risk and preparing society to deal better and sustainably with the adverse effects of climate risk.
Joy Kiiru: Joy is Senior Lecturer at the University of Nairobi School of Economics. She is also technical advisor for Research Institutions Strengthening (SRIA) under the Research and Innovation Systems in Africa (RISA) programme funded by the FCDO. Her research interests are in Social Protection, Trade Policy, Microfinance, Gender and Development and Food security. Joy is an expert in evaluative research, using RCTs among other evaluation methodologies. She is passionate about linking research to policy with a view to inform evidence-based policy making. She is a nominated working group member of the African Scientific Research and Innovation Council (ASRIC), which is the research and innovation body of the African Union. She was formerly part time Policy and Research Advisor for J-PAL Gender and Economic Agency Initiative.
Michael Okoti: Michael is Assistant Director at the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation. Trained in environment science, he coordines collaborative agricultural research projects within the organization and nationally. He also coordinates the KALRO Climate Change Unit. His research focuses on understanding environmentally sound practices in agriculture; analysis of natural resources conditions and trends; vulnerability and dynamism of farmers’ adaptive capacities; climate change modelling and generation of agro-advisories; strategies and measures to minimizes the negative impacts of climate change; tradeoffs between agriculture and environment; environmental impact analysis and audits. He is passionate in the climate change policy space nationally, regionally and globally, being a member of the African Group of Negotiators in the IPCCC processes.
Nigist Biru: Nigist is Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) Regional Representative for East Africa based in Nairobi. She serves as the technical and administrative head of the regional office and oversees the work of the countries in the region which are Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, and Rwanda (remotely). She provides strategic leadership in the planning and execution of technical activities in the region, including early warning analysis, livelihoods and vulnerability assessments, monitoring tools and methods development, capacity strengthening, markets and trade analysis, and network development/strengthening. Before joining the regional office, Nigist served as the Country Representative of FEWS NET in Ethiopia and also worked for the World Food Programme as the National Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping Officer in Ethiopia.
Siddharth Krishnaswamy: Sid is Head of Research, Analysis and Monitoring (RAM) for Eastern Africa at United Nations World Food Programme, based in Nairobi. In this role he supports a wide range of analysis (food security, vulnerability, food prices and markets; livelihood, resilience etc), assessments, programme monitoring and research across the various WFP country offices as well as regional analysis and partnerships. Prior to this he held a similar role for WFP’S Regional Bureau in Cairo covering Northern Africa and the Middle East. He first started working for WFP in 2005. Between 2010 and 2014, he was part of the core group that designed the IPC (Integrated Phase Classification) system to classify food insecurity and later on served as FAO’s Regional Advisor for Asia on the IPC.
Wilson Oduor: Wilson is Assistant Director – Drought Information at Kenya’s National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) and head of drought information in Kitui County. In the past nine years, he worked on the operation and management of the Kenya Drought Early Warning System and undertook food and nutrition security assessments across the country. Before joining NDMA, he worked with Concern Worldwide, Digital Opportunity Trust Kenya, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya), Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and Wetaa Investments Ltd. He is a certified IPC Acute Food Insecurity Level 1 Analyst.
Observatory Associates and Students
Other Observatory staff
Darren Watt – Business manager
Peter Ballantyne – Communications and knowledge sharing lead